Monday musings on Australian literature: ASA’s Authors Unlimited eBook portal

In her comment on my recent Monday musings about e-Publishing, Australian author Dorothy Johnston, whose novel The house at number 10 I reviewed recently, mentioned Authors Unlimited. I responded that I’d look into it and perhaps post on it. I did and now I am. Never let it be said that Whispering Gums is not true to her word. (Hmmm … perhaps you should ignore that … I don’t always follow through methinks, at least not promptly.)

Anyhow, Authors Unlimited is the “information and sales portal for authors, books and eBooks” for the Australian Society of Authors (ASA). The masthead on the homepage has the tagline “buy eBooks from Australian authors” but in fact it also contains pretty extensive information about Australian authors, who are members of the ASA, and their books*. So, for example, if you click on J under Authors, and then click on Dorothy Johnston you get some information about her (written by her) and a list of her books. To find out more about any particular book, click on a title and you’re taken to a page describing the book and providing publication details. If the book has an e-version – in ePub or mobi format generally – you can purchase it from that page … as I did for …

Kindle ebook ereader

Kindle (Courtesy: OCAL via

… Johnston’s collection of short stories Eight pieces on prostitution. It includes her first story, “The man who came with the news”, which was published by Frank Moorhouse in State of the Art in 1983. It also includes a long story – almost a novella, she says – titled “Where the ladders start” and “Mrs B” which was included in Meanjin’s The Canberra Issue this year (my review). I have bought this book – for AUD9.95 – and plan to read it when I travel later in the year. Prices vary, but they all seem pretty reasonable to me.

I’m not an author or publisher, as you know, but Dorothy Johnston is enthusiastic about this initiative. I notice that popular Australian children’s writer Hazel Edwards (whom I mentioned in my post on the inaugural Canberra Readers’ Festival) is selling her novel Fake I.D. available through the site. It was originally published in 2002, and in her description of the book she writes “Originally a popular print book, now only available in e-format”.

And there’s the thing … Authors Unlimited provides a great opportunity for authors to publish their out-of-print books with the help of ASA. I presume most (all?) books published in the last two or more decades were published from electronic versions. It should be a relatively easy matter, technically, to convert them to one of the e-Book standards. Some books’ rights are, presumably, still held by publishers – and some publishers are now using e-publication for out-of-print backlists but it’s good to know that authors have another option. They can publish via ASA using its conversion process, sell via ASA’s ordering and delivery mechanisms, and promote via their own websites, Facebook pages, and so on …

Here’s to more options for authors  – to republish old works, as is or in new permutations, and to publish new work.

* I believe the author listings here are automatically fed through from ASA, and so includes many authors who do not have books for sale through the portal.

16 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: ASA’s Authors Unlimited eBook portal

  1. I hadn’t really thought of Ebooks as being a way of bringing out of print backlist books back into circulation but of course they are and this initiative sounds great.

    • Thanks Ian … I suspect there are a lot of opportunities offered by eBooks that we have yet to even think of, but this is a big one I think … I know of other bloggers in other countries finding much desired backlist books, particularly in some genres, in eBook form so I think it is gradually happening.

  2. Interesting post and quite useful for me. I haven’t joined the ASA yet and must look into it. So far my novel has sold more in hard copy than the ebook version though I imagine this will change – though we are not talking in gazillions here! Thanks for this.

    • Glad to be of help, Catherine. That’s interesting regarding sales breakdown. Electronic versions sound like they could be a way of keeping works alive after their first flush – another weapon in the arsenal and all that?

  3. I went to the ASA site and started looking for books by Australian authors, starting with those longlisted for the Stella Prize. None of them seemed to be there. Is there any pattern to whose books can be expected to be there?

    • Ah, Marilyn, yes I know what you mean. I don’t think there is a pattern other than that they are members of the ASA. It looks to me as though a lot of the recent well-known authors are not there (though there are well-regarded/award-winning authors there like Dorothy Johnston, Sophie Masson (more in YA fantasy), Hazel Edwards). As I suggested in the post, some books will still be handled by their publishers – I’m guessing electronic and print publishing rights will be tied up with them – and this would be particularly the case with those recent authors.

  4. Thanks very much for your post, which I just shared on Facebook. I hope more and more Australian authors will become part of Authors Unlimited. I feel heartened by the new connections authors are forging with each other, to take advantage of the opportunities provided by ebooks. In response to the last comment, it’s up to authors themselves to put their books on the ASA site, and to go through the steps required to convert them to electronic format. I expect prize-winners will rely on their publishers to bring out ebooks and keep their backlists alive.

    • Thanks Dorothy … and thanks for responding to Marilyn … you basically confirmed what I understood from my pottering around the site. I agree that it is a great initiative supporting authors in getting their material out there, back in people’s minds. They still need to do the hard promotional yards don’t they, but if you don’t have the material ready you’ve got nothing to promote. I hope more authors will get involved too.

  5. Ah! Explanation! I must admit I giggled when, on my Facebook feed, appeared a message from someone to you, my mother, thanking you for the prostitution piece. Made me giggle fo’sure.

  6. Among other benefits that this site seems to offer, it is always a good thing when out of print books become available again. Thanks for the resource!

  7. Good morning again. I copied a link to this post and sent it to Lucie Stevens at the ASA, who sends her thanks, and is passing it on. While I was taking the dog for a walk yesterday, it came to me with renewed strength how important it is for authors to find new ways to support each other, and that’s one of the reasons I’m right behind initiatives like Authors Unlimited.

    • Oh thanks Dorothy … I’m so glad this post has helped bring a great initiative to light. The digital world is quite scary for many people who’ve grown up in different times and it seems to me that ASA’s initiative provides a supported way for authors to get their toes wet (their bytes in place, as it were!).

      And, isn’t dog walking a great time for reflection? Much as I love digital media, I never walk with an iPod. I like to think and just be in the environment.

  8. What a good idea the ASA site is! I don’t think we have anything like it in the US. I think one of the great things about digital is that technically, books no longer ever have to be out of print, a boon to readers and writers alike!

    • Agree absolutely, Stefanie … it’s wonderful seeing a whole variety of initiatives in this arena. Not all will work but it shows people are thinking and experimenting doesn’t it.

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